Scrutinizing Media Coverage of Kozlov Trial

Special Issue No. 93, Aug 28, 2012

In the spirit of openness and transparency, the Embassy continues to provide updates on the situation around Zhanaozen. While this issue is closely monitored by Kazakhstan's public and international community, the Kazakh Government and judicial system have put every effort to make sure that the cases are considered in full accordance with the laws.

In the history of independent Kazakhstan, the violent riots in Zhanaozen that claimed lives of fifteen people last December were unique in scale and tragedy. Likewise, a series of trials of those accused of rioting, inciting social discord, embezzling funds, and using excessive force differ from anything the Kazakhstan media has ever encountered. Never before has a court case in the country been as comprehensively covered and distributed through so many media outlets as the trial of Kozlov and others.

The trial itself, underway since August 16, has taken place in an atmosphere of unprecedented openness and transparency. The defendants have adequate counsel and are represented by five lawyers. Despite restrictions against video and audio recording in the courtroom, the government has gone beyond the most optimistic expectations in allowing extensive media coverage of each day's events. Parliamentarians, family members, local and international media, human rights advocacy groups and bloggers have been permitted to witness the proceedings and live-tweet from inside the courtroom.

Monday, August 27, 2012, when the trial resumed after a short break, saw the arrival of independent international observers in Aktau, including Yevgeniy Zhovtis of the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, Amangeldy Shormanbayev of the Charter for Human Rights Public Foundation, Pavel Dudin, Olena Lunjeva and Irina Virtosu of the Ukraine's International Human Rights Committee, and Szerep Zhibr Zessuliz of the International Human Rights Commission of Poland.

The coverage is massive, both through the journalistically edited material and exchanges that go unedited through social media. What we are witnessing today is a rapid change when journalists and media’s own commentators are acting as pundits. Reviewing the coverage of the case, it seems that the agenda driven media is exploiting the Kozlov case and has gone out of its way to vilify the government.

While the presence of the media as watchdog in the courtroom is undoubtedly legitimized, it is incumbent upon its representatives to ensure that such coverage does not interfere with the achievement of a fair proceeding.

The Government of Kazakhstan ensured maximum transparency, as it has nothing to hide. If it had something to conceal, it would have tried to make the procedures as restricted as possible. The fact of the matter is that the procedures have been very transparent, even by the Western standards.

Please click here to read a story, which originally appeared in Russian at nomad.su , which offers an alternative to the coverage of the trial by Western mainstream media.